Trump's 'Energy Dominance' Gets Slow Start On Federal Land

President Donald Trump speaking at the “Unleashing American Energy” event at the Department of Energy in Washington on June 29, 2017. Trump said he wants to reorient the government away from fighting climate change and toward “American energy dominance.”

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President Trump’s goal of achieving “energy dominance” for the United States includes producing more oil and gas on federal land, but new government statistics show a mixed record on this front during his first year in office.

Trump has cast himself as an ally of fossil fuel industries. At a 2017 event he told energy industry leaders, “You’ve gone through eight years of hell,” referring to the time former President Obama was in office.

But by two measures there was more oil industry activity on federal lands during the Obama years than Trump’s first year. In 2017 the number of oil and gas leases fell to a 10-year low of 38,556. The number of acres leased also declined to a decade-low of 25,742,991.

Some of the tables do show more activity. The number of leases issued in 2017 increased by about 42 percent And the number of wells that started drilling increased about 40 percent.

These statistics come from the Bureau of Land Management’s annual report on the agency’s website. The numbers were available last week when NPR obtained them but a day later they were gone. Acting BLM National Spokesperson Amber Cargile says “major technical issues” across the agency’s website were to blame.

One of the tables compares the number of acres BLM offered for lease to the number that received bids. It shows the Trump administration offered 11,859,396 acres for lease—more than at any time in the last nine years. But bids were received on only 6.7 percent of them—the lowest share by far over that period.

“This administration is throwing as many acres they can at the oil and gas industry and the oil and gas industry, to a large extent, has said, ‘No thanks—not right now,'” says Nada Culver, senior counsel and director of the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.

Environmental groups have long criticized the federal government’s oil and gas leasing program in the West, arguing public lands should be managed differently to address climate change and pollution concerns.

One reason for the relatively low interest among drillers is where the leases are located. “There are a lot of leases offered in Alaska and Nevada that there hasn’t been a lot of interest in,” says Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Denver-based oil and gas industry group Western Energy Alliance.

Last December the BLM offered all the land available for leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska—10.3 million acres. But drillers bid on less than one percent of the leases offered.

Sgamma says the response was stronger in drilling hot spots like New Mexico and Wyoming where most of the parcels offered were leased.

She says a more important metric for measuring the Trump administration’s progress toward increasing oil and gas production on federal land is revenue from lease sales. In January the BLM announced that the agency, “…generated nearly $360 million from oil and gas lease sales, an 86 percent increase over the previous year’s results of $192.5 million.”

“That indicates that companies have some confidence that some of these policies that the administration is trying to put into effect will actually bear fruit,” Sgamma says.

During the Obama years Sgamma says the BLM put up roadblocks for companies that wanted to drill on federal land. She says lengthy environmental reviews and slow agency response times were a big problem for drillers.

“The BLM is reviewing and streamlining its business processes to serve its customers and the public better and faster,” says BLM spokesperson Cargile.

“I think there has been progress. BLM has put in place a new processing system for applications for permit to drill and we’re seeing those timelines coming down,” says Sgamma. But she says it takes time to change policies and move the bureaucracy in the direction President Trump wants it to go.

Beyond administration policies another factor that can boost interest in drilling is oil prices. They are rising and that makes drilling more profitable. So while the Trump administration’s effort to boost oil and gas drilling on public land has had mixed results so far, it appears the industry is feeling optimistic about the future.

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Many Electronic Voting Machines Are Insecure. One County Is Trying To Fix That

Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir speaks to the media at the Early Voting Mega Center at Austin in October 2016. Debeauvoir has spent a decade trying to create a more secure electronic touchscreen voting system.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

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Election administrators in Austin, Texas, are trying to put an electronic voting system in place before the 2020 presidential election that is more secure than anything else in the market right now.

There are widespread concerns that many of these voting machines are vulnerable to hacking due to aging equipment and design flaws. Following reports of Russian interference in the 2016 election, lawmakers say local governments need to start switching to more secure technology.

Still, many voters and election officials say electronic voting machines make voting easier for some people, particularly those with disabilities and they can also make voting more convenient because ballots don’t need to be printed in advance.

Many voters are eager to see some electronic voting machines produce a paper trail. Elliott Gurwitz, a computer programmer living in San Antonio, says for years he’s been skeptical of the voting machines at his local polling place.

“In San Antonio, you walk in and you basically — it’s all electronic — you push buttons and then you leave,” he says.

Gurwitz says he wishes there was a way to make sure the computer he’s using isn’t making any mistakes.

“It’d be nice if you could see something printed or have some kind of receipt or something where it is more than just you pushing a button and they say, ‘yeah your vote counted,'” he says.

(Interactive: How secure is your vote?)


More than a dozen states, including Texas, have counties that use electronic voting machines that don’t create a paper trail. This is something that has rankled academics and cybersecurity experts for years.

Dana Debeauvoir, Travis County’s Clerk in Austin, says she and other Texas election administrators have heard a lot of complaints through the years.

“The problem with that was we election administrators had no authority to change the equipment or make updates, or buy different equipment — because it was certified and you had to buy certified equipment,” Debeauvoir says.

But as Austin’s voting machines got older, Debeauvoir looked around and wasn’t happy with the replacement options. She says she couldn’t find an electronic voting system that was truly more secure. So, Debeauvoir decided to reach out to a group of experts.

“I challenged the group and I told them, ‘look if you want a better voting system then work with us and I will help you develop a voting system that meets your needs and I will make sure that it works in the field, that it’s a practical system,” she says.

A team of election administrators, cybersecurity experts and academics worked together for roughly a decade. They called their project STAR Vote – that stands for Secure, Transparent, Auditable, and Reliable.

What they came up with was an electronic voting system that created a paper receipt for every voter. It also created paper record that could be checked against the electronic voting totals. Philip Stark, the Associate Dean of Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, was an auditing expert on the team.

“One of the neat things about the STAR Vote project was that it was being designed from the ground up to be auditable efficiently,” Stark says.

STAR Vote was designed to upend a system that relied on blind trust, he says. It allows voters to make sure their votes are counted correctly and it creates a paper record that couldn’t be hacked.

However, STAR Vote hit a big snag. Debeauvoir says she couldn’t find a voting machine manufacturer to make an open source system, which is both a key security and cost-control feature of STAR Vote.

“One of the reasons why we had asked for open source is because we wanted to significantly reduce the cost of these voting systems to the counties,” Debeauvoir says.

Besides the actual hardware, Debeauvoir says election administrators pay for the software licensing of their voting machines. Philip Stark says that’s part of the reason an open source system would amount to a big financial hit for manufacturers.

“I am not surprised that none of the existing manufacturers of voting systems wanted to bid on it, because it’s basically a radically different model that competes with theirs, which if it were adopted would require them to retool in some fundamental way,” Stark says.

Debeauvoir is pressing on, though. She’s currently asking manufacturers to build everything else in the STAR Vote design.

And even though they won’t get STAR Vote, Austin voters will be using something similar to it before the next presidential election.

“What we are going to get out of our next voting system is that voters are going to get that paper record and they are going to have all the advantages of electronic voting and its additional security,” Debeauvoir says. “We are going to get the best of both worlds.”

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How A Mule Train From Marks, Miss., Kicked Off MLK's Poor People Campaign

The mule train comes into the Washington area against a late afternoon sky in June of 1968. The caravan left Marks, Miss., for the nation’s capital on May 13 to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign.

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Fifty years ago today, a mule train left the small town of Marks, Miss., bound for the nation’s capital. They were answering a call to action the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made just days before he was assassinated.

“We’re coming to Washington in a poor people’s campaign,” King announced at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968. “I was in Marks, Miss., the other day, which is in Quitman County, the poorest county in the United States. And I tell you I saw hundreds of black boys and black girls walking the streets with no shoes to wear.”

The civil rights leader described being brought to tears by the conditions he found in the Mississippi Delta — a flat expanse in the northwest part of the state with rich alluvial soil along the Mississippi River. That’s why he picked Marks as the starting point for the Poor People’s Campaign — a multiracial coalition of poor people who would occupy the national mall and demand economic justice.

“Bring the poor to Washington”

Long after slavery ended, black sharecroppers remained on Delta plantations working as tenant farmers.

“The bottom line was hunger, hunger, hunger,” says Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who was doing legal work in Mississippi during the 1960s.

“You go up in the field and you would just see the hungry children and the bloated bellies,” she says.

Joan Cashin, her daughter Sheryll, and two unidentified local boys wait to help waterproof the wagon covers in Grenada, Mississippi.

John Cashin

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John Cashin

Edelman recalls King touring a Head Start program in Marks that lost its funding.

“He saw a teacher, you know, carve up an apple and give it to about eight kids — a slice each — and he was in tears,” she says. “He had to leave the center.”

Edelman brought members of Congress, including Sen. Robert Kennedy, to see the deprivation firsthand, but got little traction on poverty programs. She says Kennedy encouraged her to get King to put more focus on the issue. She says he loved the idea.

“I told him that I’d just seen Robert Kennedy and he had seen the hunger of children in Marks,” Edelman says. “Kennedy said bring the poor to Washington and he lit up like a lightbulb.”

From there King moved forward on organizing the Poor People’s Campaign.

“The vision was that this mule train would go all the way from Marks Miss., the poorest hamlet in the poorest state of the country, all the way to Washington,” says Georgetown University law professor Sheryll Cashin. “The mule and the covered wagons as a symbolic message of the black sharecropper.”

Cashin keeps a steel mule bit and leather harness as a memento from the mule train. She went to Mississippi as a child with her parents, civil right activists Joan and John Cashin, who helped organize the Poor People’s Campaign.

“Financing, locating the mules for the Mule Train, and actually going down to Marks, Miss., helping to assemble the trains,” she says.

“We were tired of living the way we were living”

After King was assassinated, preparations for the journey continued.

“I’m going to take you to where the mule train was organized,” says the Rev. Michael Jossel as he drives through Marks, pointing out a grassy field on the edge of town.

Jossel was 14 years old in 1968. High school students would help in the afternoons and then march into town every evening.

The Rev. Michael Jossel remembers excitement about the mule train when he was a teenager. He says people were caught up in the belief that change was going to come, and willing to get fired for supporting the campaign.

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

“To bring attention to the Poor People’s Campaign,” he says. “To just bring attention that we were tired of living the way we were living.”

Jossel says the campaign gave people a sense of hope that change might come. But it came at a price. When students marched to the jail to protest the arrest of an organizer with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, they were met by armed troopers.

“They parked on this side of the street with their helmets and guns, and lined up in a single file, and started marching across the street to where we were,” he says. “They took the butts of their guns and started swinging at heads and everything, and we scattered like bees.”

“You went, you went at your own risk,” says Samuel McCray, who was also in high school at the time.

McCray says teens were more willing to participate than older residents, who stood to lose their jobs and homes.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., addressing the audience from the pulpit of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968, where he discussed his planned poor people’s demonstration.

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John Rous/AP

“The plantation system ran the state of Mississippi. It certainly ran the Delta,” he says. “It was an oppressive system.”

McCray had been working the cotton fields since he was six. His grandmother allowed him to help locally, but not ride the mule train to Washington. He says there was great fear at the time.

“A lot of the parents didn’t know there was a better way,” he says. “You saw Dr. King and he’s fighting for us, but then they killed him. So if they can kill him then what about you?”

Still enough people joined from around the South to send several busloads, and then on May 13, a caravan of about 15 covered wagons, painted with slogans such as “Jesus was a Poor Man” and “Feed the Poor” pulled out of town.

Betty Crawford, Bertha Burres’ cousin, recently moved back to Marks. Her home is filled with original art depicting the mule train, and she’s preserving journals Burres kept during the historic journey.

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

Bertha Burres and her six kids were among them. She talked to SCLC photographer Roland Freeman along the journey.

“We have a great purpose,” she said on tape recordings Freeman shared with NPR.

“We are in great need of jobs – a job that will secure us to help us bring up our family with the right kind of food and clothes for the different seasons.”

Burres served as the record keeper for the SCLC. She suffers from dementia now, but her cousin Betty Crawford is organizing those papers for preservation. The journals detail every stop, and describe rain storms, wagon repairs, and run-ins with law enforcement along the way.

“Seventh stop, Eupora. Our first encounter of trouble,” Crawford reads from Burres’ handwritten entry. “We were stopped east of Eupora by sheriff deputies.”

Crawford recently moved back to Marks, and her home is filled with her original art depicting the mule train’s journey. She cherishes the history.

“I grew up here in Marks, grew up in poverty,” she says. “I come from a family of 16.”

Betty Crawford’s home in Marks today is very different from her days growing up, waiting her turn for a pair of shoes, battling worm outbreaks, and living in sparse housing.

“I was 16 years old before we got inside plumbing,” she says. “Before we had a house with running water.”

But she says they never went hungry thanks to government commodities, her dad’s hunting and fishing, and what she calls a truck patch – a large garden plot on the plantation where the family raised vegetables.

“It gets a bad rap”

Crawford and others who lived in Marks 50 years ago say they really didn’t know how poor they were, but they knew who was in control.

The mule train brought a new sensibility — that it was possible to rise above those circumstances.

As Jim Crow was dismantled, barriers to voting came down. Now African-Americans have significant political clout in the Delta. But economic power has proven more elusive.

Marks, population 1,500, still struggles with poverty today.

Julia Mayweather remembers attending mass meetings for the Poor People’s campaign in Marks 50 years ago. She says Martin Luther King would be disheartened by conditions there today.

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

“It gets a bad rap,” Samuel McCray says. “It is economically deprived. It’s a misnomer to call it poor. We have a lot of people who are in poverty and there are real concrete reasons for that.”

Farm jobs are mostly mechanized now, and smaller businesses have left downtown Marks. Two major employers here – a cotton compacting plant and a seed oil press have shut down.

Quitman County remains on the federal list of the nation’s persistent poverty counties. More than 34 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line.

Betty Crawford checks on an elderly widow in her neighborhood.

“Coming in,” she hollers as she walks through the wrought iron storm door on Julia Mayweather’s modest wood clapboard house. The white paint is fading outside and there are holes above the window frames.

Inside, Mayweather warns Crawford to watch her step and avoid the spots where the floorboards have rotted out. You can see through to the ground below.

“I usually kind of get over here,” she says. “Step over to this side.”

A retired school cafeteria worker and bus driver, Mayweather hasn’t been able to keep up with repairs since her husband died. She didn’t join the mule train, but participated in the mass meetings in the Spring of 1968 to plan the Poor People’s Campaign.

The mule train of the Poor People’s Campaign crosses Pennsylvania Avenue as it makes its way up 14th Street in downtown Washington, D.C., on June 25, 1968, en route to the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


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She thinks Martin Luther King would be disheartened to see Marks, Miss., today.

“He would say worse than what it was,” Mayweather says. “We don’t even have a grocery store in Marks.”

And she says health care is hard to come by. “Used to have a hospital. It’s gone.”

The hospital and an old SuperValu sit empty on the main highway. Emergency medical care is 20 miles away. Convenience and dollar stores are the local options for groceries.

On a residential street at dusk, Irene Wilson, a thin wisp of a woman, is pushing a grocery cart full of aluminum cans she’s been collecting to sell for cash.

“Trying to get me something to eat cause I am hungry,” she says. “I haven’t ate all day.”

She’s 53, and says she draws a social security disability check and gets food stamps, but still struggles to get by.

“I don’t want to be here,” she says. “But this is where I was born and raised so I got no other choice but to live in it.”

In 1968, the mule train from Marks made it to Atlanta where the whole caravan was loaded onto a rail train bound for Alexandria, Va.

Marks is now a stop on Mississippi’s Freedom Trail highlighting civil rights history. Local officials hope to draw tourists to the area as a way to spark more business.

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

On June 19, the wagons crossed the Potomac and joined thousands of people from around the country to live in a shantytown known as Resurrection City that occupied the national mall for six weeks.

This month Amtrak added a stop in downtown Marks. It’s part of a strategy to develop the region as a tourist destination. Quitman County Administrator Velma Benson-Wilson says the history of the Poor People’s Campaign and its significant role in the civil rights movement has been buried here for too long.

“How can we use it to help Quitman County maybe dig itself out of the some of the poverty?” she asks. “There has to be a way.”

She says what started here 50 years ago helped people around the country when Congress passed nutrition and housing programs.

“They were all rooted in what started here in Marks in 1968,” Benson-Wilson says. “Somehow we have not been able to tell that story.”

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April Showers Bring These 3 May Romances

Spring is in the air and love is all around, as these three delightful romance novels show. Whether in a New Jersey high school, a Scottish palace or Victorian England, these stories show happy-ever-after is always within reach.

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma is a bright, sassy, and totally charming young adult love story, starring Winnie Mehta, who sees everything in her life through the lens of her beloved Bollywood films. So naturally, there’s a love triangle, a prophecy, and a big song and dance number — all set in a New Jersey high school.

First, the prophecy: Apparently, Winnie Mehta will know her true love because his name begins with R, she’ll meet him before her 18th birthday, and he’ll give her a silver bracelet. So it must be Raj — who just dumped her and is stealing her thunder when it comes to arranging the film club’s big festival. Ah, teenage drama! And then there is Dev, a fellow film nerd who has loved her since freshman year. This isn’t your typical love triangle; Winnie isn’t torn between two boys as much as she’s trying to forge her own path and struggling not to let some prophecy control her destiny. She is the sassy, save-the-day-herself, get-the-guy-she-wants heroine we all need sometimes.

If the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is putting you in the mood for even more royal romance, don’t miss Royals by Rachel Hawkins, a delightful romp of a book for when you need to bliss out with a light romance starring a sweet and snarky heroine. Daisy Winters is just a typical Florida teen, working at the Sur-N-Sav and saving up for a trip to Key West with her best friend. Her older sister, on the other hand, happens to be marrying a Scottish prince. And when Daisy’s lame ex-boyfriend starts tattling to the tabloids, the palace decides that she should stay out of trouble by coming to Scotland for the summer. But of course.

But Daisy’s sassy mouth is the flaw in that plan. She insults a member of the royal family, gets photographed with the Prince’s brother and finds herself inadvertently starring in tabloid scandals. Enter Miles Montgomery: As a loyal friend of the prince and devoted to the royal family, he’s enlisted to pose as her love interest. Fake dating ensues, and to the surprise of literally no one, they end up falling for each other.

After The Wedding by Courtney Milan is everything you want romance to be: deeply emotional, with moments that are laugh out loud funny and a story that examines real world issues — while never losing focus on the two characters falling in love.

The story begins with a wedding at gunpoint, because these things tend to happen in historical romance. Adrian Hunter — the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist — has been posing as a valet to dig up dirt on a rival of his uncle. That is, until he’s forced to the altar with a pistol at his back and Miss Camilla Winters, a servant, at his side. She’s actually Camilla Worth, who after nine years exiled from her family, wants nothing more than to be loved and settled. (Just not on these terms.)

But this is not a story about how they get together, it’s a story about how they stay together. Instead of a predictable, bickering, enemies-to-lovers plot, they become friends who work together to unravel the reasons why they were forced to marry. In spite of their increasing attraction, they’re also determined to keep their distance for the sake of their inevitable annulment (right?!). It’s no spoiler to say that Camilla and Adrian do get the long, slow falling in love they both want and deserve. They show us that the best happily ever after is the one you choose.

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author.

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'Terrorist Group' Kills 26 In Burundi

Family members of victims killed by an armed group mourn in the village of Ruhagarika on Saturday, where 26 people were killed, in northwestern Burundi.

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Twenty-six people were killed and seven wounded in a village in rural Burundi late Friday, according to Burundi’s security minister.

Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni said a “terrorist group” was responsible but he did not name the group, according to The Associated Press. The attack took place in the village of Ruhagarika in Cibitoke province, located in the northwest of the small East African country.

The attackers came over the border from the nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bunyoni said, and returned there after the attack, according to Al-Jazeera.

The AP quoted a survivor, who said attackers came around 10 p.m. and ” ‘attacked households and set fire on houses.’ Some victims were hacked with machetes and others were shot or burned alive,” the AP says she said.

The AP talked with more survivors:

” ‘These killers attacked my family and I am very angry,’ said another survivor, Pascal Hakizimana. ‘My family is dead and to make matters worse, the army did nothing to save them even when they were not far from here.’

“A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to a reporter, said four of the families targeted were headed by people he called ‘police agents.’ “

An unnamed local official told Agence France-Presse, “Some of the victims were stabbed, others were shot, there is even a whole family that was burned alive in their home,” according to Al-Jazeera.

The country is preparing for a referendum in a few days which could extend the term of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has led the country since 2005, until 2034.

The BBC says the attack could be related to the referendum:

“It is not known who carried out the attacks, but some are blaming exiled opposition groups who are based outside Burundi and have vowed to disrupt the 17 May referendum.

“Critics say a cult of personality is developing around Mr Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader who was the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi’s civil war in 1994.

“A ‘yes’ vote in the referendum would allow him to stand for a further two seven-year terms from 2020.

Human Rights Watch blamed Burundi’s government for a “political and human rights crisis” starting in 2015. In its 2018 report, the rights group said:

“Government forces targeted real and perceived opponents with near total impunity. Security forces and intelligence services—often collaborating with members of the ruling party’s youth league, known as the Imbonerakure—were responsible for numerous killings, disappearances, abductions, acts of torture, rapes, and arbitrary arrests. Unknown assailants carried out grenade and other attacks, killing or injuring many people.”

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Suicide Bombers Kill At Least 9, Wound Dozens At Churches In Indonesia

Indonesian anti-terror policeman stands guard at the blast site following a suicide bomb outside a church in Surabaya, Indonesia on Sunday.

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Suicide bombers killed at least nine people and wounded dozens in attacks on three different churches holding services in Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya Sunday morning.

Police said at least five suicide bombers were involved, including at least one on a motorcycle and a woman who had two children with her, according to The Associated Press.

Police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said four people were killed at the first attack on the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church. He said 41 people were wounded at that location, including two police officers, while one or more of the bombers were killed.

Mangera told the AP that minutes later, a second explosion went off at the Christian Church of Diponegoro and a third explosion went off at the Pantekosta Church.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Reuters reports, though the wire service says the communications director of Indonesia’s intelligence agency, Wawan Purwanto, suspects the group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) is responsible.

The U.S. State Department designated JAD as a terrorist group in January 2017. The U.S. government says the group originated in 2015 from other extremist groups and its members pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The U.S. blames JAD for a suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta in January 2016 that left four people dead and 25 injured.

Purwanto said the attacks are likely linked to a riot and a 36-hour standoff at a prison near Jakarta last week, when Islamic State loyalists killed at least five security officers, according to Al-Jazeera and Reuters.

“The main target is still security authorities, but we can say that there are alternative [targets] if the main targets are blocked,” he told Reuters.

With more than 260 million people, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. About 87 percent of the population is Muslim, while Christians make up about 10 percent, according to a 2010 estimate from the CIA.

Christians have been targeted before by militants in Indonesia, according to the AP. Attacks on churches in 2000 killed 15 people and wounded almost 100.

One of the most deadly attacks in Indonesia involved multiple bombs that went off inside and outside nightclubs in 2002 in Bali. The attack by the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah left 202 people dead.

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Eurovision Returns To Glitz, Politics And Censorship

Netta, representing Israel, celebrates her win in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, during the Eurovision Song Contest grand final.

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Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest, held this year in Lisbon.

The winning song, “Toy,” by Netta, was a return to the over-the-top, cheesy style that many people associate with the singing competition.

When he won last year, Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral told the crowd he hoped his victory would bring back “music that means something.” He said, “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling.”

He couldn’t have been feeling too good, then, when he handed the Eurovision trophy to Netta.

Her song was pure pop weirdness, and the fans in the arena loved it. Sobral, on the other hand reportedly criticized the song in an interview with Portuguese newspaper Público earlier in the week.

After winning, Netta told the crowd “thank you so much for choosing different.”

And different she was.

During her performance Netta was flanked by two walls with shelves and shelves of the maneki-neko cat figurine, each waving its paw.

Her backup dancers, dressed in black-and-pink jumpsuits, danced in jerky movements while making expressive faces. Frequently, both they and Netta would break out into a chicken dance, echoing a line in the song in which she appears to do a chicken impression.

Some fans of the song in the audience wore chicken hats to show their support.

While “Toy” was an early favorite to win, it felt at times like it was anybody’s game to win. Strong showings from Austria, Cyprus and Sweden — paired with Eurovision’s arcane and drawn-out vote reveal — meant that fans were left second-guessing their predictions as the leaderboard kept changing.

Aside from the glitter and pyrotechnics, it wouldn’t be Eurovision without a political controversy of one kind or another.

In previous years, those have mostly involved Russia. Last year, for instance, the Russian act was banned by Ukrainian authorities from coming to the country since she had visited Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula. This year Russia submitted the same singer, Yuliya Samoylova, but she failed to qualify for Saturday night’s final.

This year, as in contests past, some of the audience booed as the Russian voting results were being read, a response to anti-LGBT policies in Russia. Eurovision has a large gay following, and rainbow flags are frequently seen in the crowd alongside national flags from competing countries.

Chinese viewers of Tuesday’s semifinal would have struggled to make out those flags, though, as Mango TV blurred out rainbow flags.

China, which doesn’t compete in the contest, also edited out two of the acts from the performance.

The Albanian singer, Eugent Bushpepa, had visible arm tattoos, and a Chinese regulation introduced earlier this year banned tattoos from appearing on TV.

Mango TV also cut the Irish entry, Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s “Together.” The song charts the decline of a relationship, and the performance is accompanied by two male dancers who are clearly meant to be the couple in the song.

In response, the European Broadcasting Union, or EBU, which runs the contest, said it was immediately ending its relationship with Mango TV, and would not allow the broadcaster to air Thursday’s semifinal or Saturday’s grand final.

“This is not in line with the EBU’s values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music,” the EBU said in a statement.

During Saturday’s grand final a man stormed the stage during the aptly named “Storm” by SuRie, the British entry. He grabbed the microphone from her briefly before being quickly taken off stage. Impressively, SuRie barely missed a beat, picking up where she left off and completing the song as if nothing had happened.

Next year’s contest will be held in the winning country, Israel.

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